The University of Connecticut's main campus is Storrs file photo

Debate rages at the state Capitol and across Connecticut over how much to cut the state’s share of funding for the University of Connecticut.

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Cuts in the Republican budget range between $244.3 and $308 million over the biennium, depending on how they are calculated, according to the legislature’s nonpartisan analysts.  The Democratic plan cuts $108 million for UConn.

Here, in graphical form, is an overview of where the public university gets and spends its money, who it enrolls, how many it employs, and how it compares to other universities in research and administrative costs, among other things.

Accelerated spending

UConn’s spending has doubled since 2003 and grew at a faster rate than inflation. The university’s adopted budget for 2017-18 shows its costs growing by another $9 million, largely to hire 20 full-time faculty and 16 other staff to work at the new downtown Hartford campus and student housing in Stamford.

The growth for 2017-18 was budgeted with the assumption that UConn would lose $17 million from the state this year – which is dramatically short of the cuts proposed in either the Republican or Democratic budgets.

Students increasingly picking up the bill

The tuition and fees students pay to attend UConn are covering a growing share of the university’s expenses since state funding has not kept pace with UConn’s escalating costs. In fiscal 2011, the university for the first time received more revenue from students than from the state. This fiscal year, UConn is slated to get 39 percent of its revenue from students compared to 27 percent from the state. Almost all the remainder comes from grants and contracts, the university’s fund-raising foundation, and sales and services.

In real dollars, the cost to attend UConn has increased substantially for both Connecticut residents and students from other states. Adjust tuition and fees for inflation, and you’ll see that they have also increased at a faster rate than inflation.

Out-of-state students driving enrollment growth

UConn enrolled 31,440 students this fall — a 12 percent increase over the last decade and the most students the state’s flagship university has ever enrolled. The growth has come entirely from full-time students; the number of students attending part-time has steadily declined, and 87 percent of students now attend full-time.

Two out of every three new seats went to non-Connecticut residents, which means more students than ever are coming from out-of-state. And in more recent years, when new seats were made available almost 90 percent went to non-residents.

Meanwhile, the number of Connecticut residents attending the public school has shrunk marginally over the last six years – from 23,201 students in 2011 to 22,934 in fall 2016.

This tilt is mostly driven by which students are enrolling in graduate school at UConn since the number of Connecticut resident graduate students has actually declined by 6 percent while the number of out-of-state graduate students has increased by 44 percent. For undergraduates, enrollment increases have been split 50-50 between resident and non-residents.

Many of the non-Nutmeggers end up sticking around. Among graduates in UConn’s Class of 2015 who were currently employed, 30 percent of those who moved to Connecticut to go to UConn were employed in-state last September. For Connecticut residents, 78 percent stayed and worked in-state.

Where the money is spent

Personnel have always accounted for the largest share of UConn’s costs. These costs — which include salaries, pension contributions and health benefits — have steadily grown. Over the last five years, two-thirds of the $290 million in increased spending by UConn has gone to cover personnel costs.

However, faculty hiring has not kept pace with enrollment growth as the increased spending has gone mostly toward raises and the increased costs of health and retirement benefits.

Because the state promised employees pensions but did not set aside enough to pay for them, the amount UConn must set aside now to play catch up has ballooned. A professor with a $100,000 salary used to cost UConn $34,300 in pension contributions in 2006. Today, the cost is $55,000.

The number of students per faculty member has steadily increased since 1994, resulting in larger class sizes. There was minor improvement between 2011 and 2013 as a result of an almost 30 percent tuition and fee increase. However, those gains have almost entirely been wiped out as the university grappled with budget deficits.

Meanwhile, UConn has steadily increased its executive and manager ranks – while staff and library positions have been declining.

The 13 additional administrators now working at UConn’s main campus in Storrs and its regional campuses over the last four years – and the pay increases existing leaders have received – mean the public university is spending $4 million more on salaries for its 121 executives and managers, a 22 percent increase over the last four school years. In addition, the school must pay for the health and retirement benefits for most of these employees. (Read more here.)

Seven-in-10 UConn students receive some form of help paying for tuition, though the aid has not kept pace with the rising cost of attendance or enrollment growth.

Overall, the amount UConn spends on financial aid has taken up an increasing share of its budget – from 4.6 percent in fiscal 2008 to 7.1 percent last fiscal year. In 2016, UConn students received $93.9 million in scholarships and financial aid. Just over half of that came from tuition, and most of the remainder came from federal and private funding.

Aid is doled out for four purposes; income need, merit, athletic or discounts for UConn employees. Need-based aid has remained about half of all aid, though its share has decreased in more recent years as new aid was largely routed toward sports and merit scholarships.

This means that 10 years ago the average need-based grant for low-income students picked up half the cost of tuition and mandatory fees compared to 40 percent last school year. On top of the tuition and fees, students also may have to pay to cover meals and lodging.

While research activity took off at UConn and UConn Health between 1996 and 2007, it has shown small increases since then.

Through 2007, spending on research increased by an average of $7.8 million each year, which means research spending grew much faster than inflation. S ince then, spending has increased by $3.2 million a year, which means spending lagged behind inflation.

Got transparency?

UConn faced a public bruising from state legislators and newspaper editorial boards for doing its budget in private last fiscal year. The state’s Freedom of Information Commission eventually determined the school violated open-meetings laws after a complaint from The Hartford Courant.

Since January 2014, the commission has ruled nine times that UConn or its Health Center violated open records or meeting laws. The school had 80 complaints levied against it during that time. Of those, 45 were settled after commission mediation; 11 were never referred to a hearing officer because of problems with the complaint; eight were dismissed by the commission because there was no violation; and nine were ruled violations.

UConn and its foundation have shifted toward more fiscal transparency in recent years. And the state legislature increased the amount of information the UConn Foundation is required to make public. (Read more here.)

How UConn compares

While UConn’s oft-touted U.S. News & World Report rankings have improved, its ratings that focus on research have slipped in recent years.

Most notably, the public university ranked 64th in overall spending on research among the public and private schools surveyed in 2005 by the National Science Foundation. By 2015, the school was in 82nd place for the $259.4 million it spent, largely because of declines in research spending by the UConn Health Center.

Among public universities, UConn and UConn Health ranked 54th for their spending in 2014, a standing that has remained pretty steady over the last decade.

While federal funding is by far the largest revenue source for research at UConn, the university has increasingly relied on tuition and fees and other institutional funding to grow research.

While annual federal research funding has increased by $16.5 million since 2004, support from UConn’s budget for research has increased by $25.5 million. For landing federal funding, UConn was in 77th place in 2015.

(Read more here)

UConn is slated to spend $8.9 million this year supporting its foundation; and in return its fundraising arm doles out about $40 million a year on things like student scholarships or sports complex construction.

It’s a give-and-take that has existed for years — though UConn officials are now hoping for a better return as the school’s budget swells.

UConn’s endowment has grown to $383.8 million — a 23 percent increase over five years — as donations have increased and the financial markets have improved.

UConn’s national ranking for the size of its endowment remains in the low 200’s.

The University of Connecticut spent $27.2 million last year subsidizing its sports teams and programs – the third highest amount in the nation among public schools with Division 1 sports teams. Only Rutgers University and James Madison University subsidized athletics more, a review released Monday by the Chronicle for Higher Education found.

USA Today routinely ranks UConn’s subsidies among the highest in the nation. (Read more about that here.)

The athletic department’s budget has steadily increased over the years, from $17 million in 1995 to $72 million in fiscal 2015. Football has the largest budget ($15 million) followed by men’s basketball ($9 million) and then women’s basketball ($7 million). Just under one-fifth of the department’s budget covers athletic scholarships.

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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